After the end of First World War, the European countries made several attempts to promote peace. The Treaty of Versailles established the League of Nations to maintain international peace and security. Protocol for the pacific settlement of international disputes, more commonly known as the Geneva Protocol, was adopted in 1924 to outlaw war, promote peaceful settlement of international disputes and establish military measures against the aggressor. The idea of mutual security established by the Geneva Protocol was that a state would come to the defense of another state when there is an aggression. However, the idea of mutual security established by the Geneva Protocol did not gain success since states were not prepared to go to war in order to protect some distant State where their own security was not threatened. The only chance that the idea of mutual security would ever become acceptable was that it might be applied regionally to groups of nations. The members of such a group would realize that their own security would depend upon maintaining peace among their own neighbors. If there is war in one state, it would cause security threat in the neighboring states. This was the basis of a peace pact made in the year following the proposed Geneva Protocol. The biggest threat to the peace in Europe at that time was the hostility between France and Germany. France and Germany wanted more security from each other. The Foreign Minister of Germany made the first move by sending a proposal for a peace pact to other European nations on 9 February 1925. The pact was to apply to a particular region of Europe and was to be guaranteed by France, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany.
The delegates from Germany, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Poland, and Czechoslovakia met in the city of Locarno, Switzerland. The Locarno Conference began on October 5, 1925. The conference continued for 11 days and seven treaties came out of the conference. The pact was formally signed in London on 01 December by France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Belgium. The treaties became effective from September 14, 1926.
The Locarno Treaties (also known as Locarno Agreements or Locarno Peace Pact) refers to the series of agreements whereby Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Italy mutually guaranteed peace in Western Europe. The distinguishing feature of the Locarno Treaty was the localized police principle (regional security). The Pact was not a single measure but consisted of several treaties closely related together. Through the Locarno Treaties, the Allies (the alliance led by France, Britain, Russia during World War I) and the new states wanted to secure the territorial settlement made through the Treaty of Versailles and solidify Germany’s borders with Belgium and France. The Allies also promised to normalize relations with Germany. Another purpose of the Locarno Treaties was to ease worldwide post‐war tension.
The Locarno Treaties consisted of seven agreements; the Rhineland Pact being the major one.
I. Treaty of Mutual Guarantee (Rhineland Pact)
It was signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. It provided that the Belgian‐ German and Franco‐German frontiers as fixed by the Treaty of Versailles were inviolable; It guaranteed the permanent demilitarization of the Rhineland. Belgium, France, and Germany promised not to resort to war except in self‐defense or after the breach of the agreements on the demilitarization of Rhineland zone or in the fulfillment of League obligations. They further agreed to settle all disputes by peaceful means. In case of violation of the treaty all the signatories to the Treaty will come immediately to the assistance of the party attacked. Arbitration Conventions/Treaties
II. Arbitration Convention between Germany and Belgium
III. Arbitration Convention between Germany and France
IV. Arbitration Treaty Between Germany and Poland
V. Arbitration Treaty Between Germany and Czechoslovakia
The parties to these treaties agreed to submit all disputes to arbitration tribunal or the Permanent
Court of International Justice if such disputes could not be settled through normal diplomatic
Treaties of Guarantee
VI. Treaty of Guarantee between France and Poland
VII. Treaty of Guarantee between France and Czechoslovakia
France signed further treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, pledging mutual assistance in the event of conflict with Germany. These essentially reaffirmed existing treaties of alliance concluded by France with Poland on 19 February 1921 and with Czechoslovakia on 25 January 1924. As Germany refused to guarantee its eastern frontiers, unlike the western frontiers, France sought to give Poland and Czechoslovakia the security they required by signing treaties with them. The parties undertook to lend each other immediate aid and assistance should they become the victims of unprovoked aggression.
Significance of the Locarno Treaties
The Pact of Locarno, 1925 symbolized the atmosphere of goodwill between the enemies who had fought a world war 11 years before. The Locarno pact was viewed by many as the beginning of a new era of European peace. Unlike the Treaty of Versailles, it was signed by Germany voluntarily, and Germany was thereby recognized as the equal of other European Powers, which seemed a step towards the end of Germany’s bitterness against the winners of the First World War. Germany made several other gains. Germany was admitted to the League of Nations in 1926 and given a permanent seat on the Council. In 1927 the control of Germany’s disarmament stopped as a result of the Locarno Treaties. The treaties introduced a hope for international peace, or the “spirit of Locarno”. In both 1925 and 1926 the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the lead negotiators of the treaty, going to Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1925 and jointly to Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann in 1926, Following the success of Locarno Treaty, Kellogg‐Briand Pact (The Pact of Paris) was signed on 1928.
Negative Arguments regarding Locarno Treaties
Even though the Locarno Treaty had been successful in bringing about peace, the League of Nations was not strengthened and the collective security remained uncertain. Promises not to go to war were worthless without a way to enforce these promises. The Pact of Locarno failed to provide an adequate basis for the limitation of armaments which was amongst the objects declared in the final Protocol. The spirit of Locarno could not convince nations to cut back on their weapons. States were simply unwilling to trust their security to anyone but their own military forces. Locarno divided borders in Europe in two categories: the Western frontiers guaranteed by Locarno, and the eastern frontiers, which were free for revision. Any conflict in eastern frontiers of Germany would only be settled through arbitration. Great Britain promised to defend Belgium and France but not Poland and Czechoslovakia. Poland insisted that its eastern borders should be covered by any western guarantee of borders. Since it did not happen, Locarno introduced distrust between Poland and Western countries. It was said that Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west.
Locarno was never tried in practice. On 7 March 1936 Germany sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles, declaring that the situation imagined at Locarno had been changed by the Franco‐Soviet alliance of 1935. France regarded the German move as a “flagrant violation” of Locarno, but Great Britain declined to do so, and no action was taken. Also, Germany made no effort to arbitrate its dispute with Czechoslovakia in 1938 or with Poland in 1939. For Russia, Locarno arrangements focused on the regional security of Europe were efforts to isolate Russia in particular by detaching Germany from its own understanding with Moscow under the April 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. It was perceived in 1925 that the Locarno Pact would bring peace in
Europe, and there would not be another world war. But beginning in the 1930s a series of events took place that ultimately led to another conflict. Soon after joining the League of Nations, the “spirit of Locarno” ran into strong opposition in Germany and France and eventually dissolved completely. The Germans were upset that their borders were so restricted, and many felt that Locarno had brought disgrace and dishonor. France was opposed to it because they felt that they were not well enough protected from Germany. Though its ideals were good and its promises were
hopeful, the Locarno treaties could not prevent World War II.
Some scholars argue that the Treaty reduced the significance of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles. In the case of flagrant aggression, the parties to the Locarno Treaties agreed to act if necessary without a decision of the League Council. Likewise, the disarmament of Germany was stopped as the result of Locarno Treaties contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.